Harmony in a Unified Cosmos

Calling Don Byron a jazz musician is like calling the Pacific wet — it just doesn't begin to describe it. Magazines may not be able to resist the impulse to categorize, but Byron has carpentered an extraordinary career precisely by obliterating the very idea of category. Though he made his bones as a jazz clarinetist, over the past decade he has developed a sort of musical Esperanto — impassioned, expansive, inclusive — distilled from the babel of styles, genres and species, both historical and contemporary, that make up our perception of music itself.

As a child in the...

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